OpenOffice 2.0 readies for release

The next generation of the Open Office suite from OpenOffice.org is nearing completion. A release candidate for version 2.0 of the program is now available for download.

The announcement follows the release a few days ago of Sun’s Star Office 8, which relies heavily on code from the Open Office Project.

The suite comprises a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics program, drawing program and database front end. The new version is said to be much more compatible with Microsoft file formats than the previous 1.1 version.

The program itself is based on the open standard OASIS OpenDocument XML format as the default file format. The OASIS OpenDocument format is vendor and implementation independent and is open to use by anyone. It is not only recommended for use by the European Commission but also recently established as a standard by the state of Massachusetts in the US.

The program also leans heavily on other open standards. OpenOffice.org 2.0 now allows creating forms based on the open W3C XForms standard. XForms is W3C’s name for a specification of Web forms that can be used with a wide variety of platforms including desktop computers and PDAs.

The developers have gone some way towards making the software accessible to Microsoft Office users. Among the new features are a mail merge wizard that can output addresses from a number of sources. The Calc spreadsheet also offers DataPilot. Similar to Microsoft Excel’s PivotTable feature, it can create new groups, filter data based on values, and show differences and percentages instead of absolute values.

Calc has also expanded the number of rows it supports. The OpenOffice.org 1.1 supported only 32,768 rows in spreadsheet documents, which caused Microsoft Excel interoperability issues. The developers claim that the new version now takes OpenOffice.org to the same level as Microsoft Excel.

The Release Candidate 1 of Open Office.org is available for Windows, Linux, Macintosh, Solaris x86 and Sparc and FreeBSD and is available at OpenOffice.org. Oh, and it is completely free.

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